Maplewood, Missouri is a neighborhood of St. Louis that is super quaint with some awesome history behind it. Founded in 1908, placards around town point to the history of each building including the oldest bowling lanes west of the Mississippi. Even though they have old bones, the blood running through the veins of Maplewood is hip, artesianal and uniquely fun.
The Maplewood Sweet Tooth Tour consisted of a self guided tour around nine of their local shops on a 1/4 mile walk. It included Kakao Chocolate, Foundation Grounds, Vom Fass, La Cosecha Coffee Roasters, Great Harvest Bread Company, Traveling Tea, Strange Donuts, Pie Oh My! and Encore Baking Company. Each represented such a different facet of what it means to be sweet. The shops boasted their use of local ingredients and partnering with local companies found right there in Maplewood, which went a long way to speak of their community and what can be found here. Almost all the shop owners or managers were there, and despite the huge crowds, everyone was friendly and took time for meet and greets. Despite the sweetness of hospitality and goodies, my blood sugar didn’t calm down for days. What sucks is that I’m still jonesing for much of what these guys were offering. Hopefully this wasn’t the start of my longterm diabetic downturn.
First up was Kakao Chocolate run by Brian Pelletier. The shop was very open and chic boutique with plenty to look at and enjoy. The store boasted confections made right in house by their staff with tables and cases to ogle and ahh. While they specialize in chocolate, they do make some delicious marshmallows and fruit pates showing they are more than just chocolate. I was even surprised to find a great number of other high end delicacies made by other manufacturers including bars, novelties and candies in their shop. During the tour, they served up Irish Rocky which was a combination of Schlafly Coffee Stout chocolate cake, vanilla bean marshmallow and vanilla bean caramel with thin layers of chocolate and pecans. It was a delicious, delicious mouthful.
Next up was Foundation Grounds, a great java hangout that features local items on their well pulled together menu striving to be as eco-friendly as possible. The staff was super friendly, quick to get orders going, and boasted a great cup-o-joe. The item they served up for the tour was called Goo Balls, a no bake cookie that included chocolate, oats, coconut and a few other ingredients. Surprisingly with very little sugar, these balls were addictive. So addictive, I keep trying to recreate them at home.
Vom Fass looks like many of the olive oil stores that have cropped up recently, but I can certainly tell you and urge you to not pass it by like I did on my first visit to Maplewood. While they do have samplings of olive oil and vinegars utilizing a wide range of flavors, they also have spirits. Lots and lots of alcoholic spirits. While I don’t drink, I was fascinated to see such a wide range of combinations, and their own unique take on everyday drinkable like vodka. Their staff was beyond helpful and attentive, and I had a great time chit chatting between our sampling which consisted of Love Potion and some insanely delicious lemon olive oil sugar cookies. I sourced many a unique items to use in my cooking during my visit, and was so happy to see a place where I could buy as much as I needed including Kirsch, a cherry liquor that I needed for a Black Forest cake. Vom Fass allowed me the opportunity to buy a cute little 8 ounce bottle that I can later repurpose. And if all that doesn’t entice you, they do pairings and various other classes and workshops.
La Cosecha Coffee Roasters and Great Harvest Bread Company were in the same tucked away locale. The front was setup to get you your caffeine fix, let you sample local candy creator, Calley’s, and then get you excited about what was hidden in the back- glorious, wonderful bread. La Cosecha keeps it simple and gives you an amazing cup of coffee with no frills to keep their focus on what they do best. They’re in store roaster is why you’ll get such a unique and delicious cup, and why very little places can compare. Their samples included an affogato (espresso with gelato) which featured local vanilla ice cream from Serendipity’s, and a brownie truffle from Calley’s to top it off. As you made your way to the back, you got to choose a sample of the breads available on that day from Great Harvest Bread Company. They are family owned, boasting local ingredients and using wheat they freshly grind everyday. The bread was delicious and smelled so heavenly, luckily we got to take away cookies or a cinnamon roll for later consumption.
Traveling Tea was our next stop. They served up some chai tea which was very good, and gave out a sampling of candied blueberry tea. The candied tea was a nice concept, sadly a poor execution. Their highlight though, was putting together loose leaf tea combinations themselves, so you can take home blends for a fraction of a cost and buy just as much as you need.
Strange Donuts was a strange and wonderful lot. The guys behind the counter had a great sense of humor and were insanely personable. Every ticket handed in to mark off your visit was autographed by them, or given written instructions. Mine was to “follow me on twitter.” By the time much of the tour goers had passed through, the rest of their shop was closed down for the day, selling out by noon. Luckily they had our samples ready for us and armed, so that no one could deprive us. Later that evening I told my sugar induced body no more, then said, “ok, maybe one bite.” I scarfed the whole donut down. When I went to bed, my husband asked why I looked so guilty. My only reply was that, “I ate the whole thing, and saved not even the bag to sniff.”
Next on the long list of tour stops was Pie Oh My! A super sweet bunch of ladies boasting some overly delicious pies and really cool combinations. Their samples were an oatmeal chocolate or chocolate Bailey’s cream pie. I was able to try both and was wowed by the oatmeal chocolate. Such a unique and delicious combination for a pie. The staff was what one would expect of being in grandmother’s kitchen, attentive to your needs, making sure you had enough to eat, and above all were happy. Yes ladies, I can honestly say that you did indeed make me happy.
Our last tour stop was Encore Baking Company. Thankfully shop owner and baker, Francie Valenta opened up her store with open arms. A typical window shopper may not give the shop a second glance as their focus is on beautifully elegant creations. Seeing some of their wedding cakes up front and personal humbles a person very quickly as you realize everything is created by hand and completely edible. Francie was so nice, and confirmed my suspicions that the delivery of cakes is the most nerve racking part of the process. Her cupcakes looked good, but tasted even better, embodying what every cake should be. A showcase of flavors, not too overly sweet and perfectly balanced. I’m sure it helped having my favorite flavor combination of almond and raspberries together didn’t hurt either. While they don’t have cupcakes regularly, it is worth thinking about using her for any upcoming occasions one might have.
Do you live in St. Louis, have you visited Maplewood yet? Are you needing a break? Then consider St. Louis, and of course stopping by Maplewood! I can without a doubt say it was an insanely great day with so many businesses I can’t wait to visit again in the future. Not to mention the evening life is just as fun too with a trip to Schlafly Brewery, bowling and adult pinball arcades. Stay tuned to Maplewood‘s event listings as I hear their Christmas walk is definitely worth attending. Or simply stop by any day to experience the fun I had, and then some.
To full plates and eating your tarte out.